Umpiring can be extraordinarily rewarding for a number of reasons. Foremost among them is that as a Little League® umpire, you serve the children and families in your community.
Also, as a volunteer umpire, you gain an even deeper knowledge of, and appreciation for, Little League. Once you start officiating games you gain an entirely new perspective on the role umpires play in the Little League experience.
Your willingness to work outside of your comfort zone sets a solid example for the league’s children, whose development as players and people depends on their ability to expand their comfort zones.
The decision to umpire is a testament to your character. Your willingness to work outside of your comfort zone sets a solid example for the league’s children, whose development as players and people depends on their ability to expand their comfort zones. Here are several suggested steps to take in preparation for your debut as a Little League umpire.
If certain situations trigger your emotions, find a way to correct that. No matter how much your league emphasizes the Positive Coaching Alliance principle of honoring the game, sooner or later, you will hear something you don’t like from a player, coach, or spectator.
It is important for the youth you serve that you not escalate any conflict. Umpiring takes a certain thickness of skin. You may need to develop your patience and sense of humor, but doing so is intrinsically rewarding and can benefit you elsewhere in your life beyond the diamond.
Know Your League
You will perform much better if you understand cultural elements of your league, such as how competitive the players and coaches are, how athletic the players are (which can dictate how quickly you must move to position correctly to make calls) and the general temperament of spectators. You should seek tips or insights from as many of the league’s umpires as you can.
Getting to know some of the coaches before you start umpiring also helps. You can ask them their views on umpiring, how they like to interact with umpires, and which other umpires they recommend you watch. Knowing the coaches this way also will humanize you to each other by the time you do step onto the field.
Know Your Sport
Watch a lot of games. Don’t just sit in the bleachers, but move around so you can see what umpires see. As long as it’s safe and practical, peer through the backstop fence directly behind the plate umpire or stand as close to the baselines as possible. Seeing from those angles how quickly the ball moves, the way it may slice toward the line, and the closeness of plays can be at first base on a routine grounder will have you less subject to surprise once you’re out there.
Formal training or mentoring is necessary. You also have to know the current rules and regulations. The more you can move and speak with confidence and authority, the better your experience will be, and the better you can play the important role of keeping the game in order so that players have the best possible experience.
Additional free resources from PCA are available at www.devzone.positivecoach.org. For more insight on coaching, subscribe to PCA’s Talking Points, a weekly e-mail series with ideas and tools for coaches to use with their players. Little League-specific resources are at http://staging.littleleague.org/pca.htm.
Submitted by David Jacobson, Positive Coaching Alliance